Cathodal tDCS Over the Left Prefrontal Cortex Diminishes Choice-Induced Preference Change

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In everyday life, people often find themselves facing difficult decisions between options that are equally attractive. Cognitive dissonance theory states that after making a difficult choice between 2 equally preferred options, individuals no longer find the alternatives similarly desirable. Rather, they often change their existing preferences to align more closely with the choice they have just made. Despite the relevance of cognitive dissonance in modulating behavior, little is known about the brain processes crucially involved in choice-induced preference change. In the present study, we applied cathodal transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) with the aim of downregulating the activity of the left or the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during a revised version of Brehm's (in 1956. Post-decision changes in the desirability of alternatives. J Abnorm Soc Psychol. 52:384–389) free-choice paradigm. We found that cathodal tDCS over the left, but not over the right, DLPFC caused a reduction of the typical behavior-induced preference change relative to sham stimulation. Our findings highlight the role of prefrontal cortex in cognitive dissonance and provide evidence that left DLPFC plays a necessary role in the implementation of choice-induced preference change.

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